Frederick was born in Bexleyheath on the 19th July 1894, one of nine children. He attended Foster’s School and when he started on 21st January 1901, the family were living at 1 Danson Cottages,
His parents had married at the end of 1886, his mother Minnee Jane (nee Smith) born in Wilmington and his father, Richard, born in Reading. Richard was a domestic gardener and the family moved frequently with his work, the children being born around the borough: Amelia Temple born (1887, Crayford), Florence Emily A (1889, Bexleyheath), Alfred Harry (1891, Lee), Frederick Richard (19 July 1894, Bexleyheath), Ernest George (1st May 1898, Bexley), Olive Minnie (1901, Welling), Edith Mary (1903, Welling), Charles Victor (1906, Bexleyheath) and William Patrick (1908, Bexleyheath). The family’s Welling homes included Danson Lane and 3 High Street, Welling.
By 1911 Frederick had moved with his family to 7 Medina Terrace, Godstone Road, Whyleleafe. He was 17 years old and employed as a domestic post boy. His sisters Amelia and Florence had by then left home (Florence had married in 1909). and brother Alfred was living at 12 High Street, Welling, with his grand-father Isaac Smith.
Frederick joined the Royal Navy and by 1916 was an Able Seaman, service number J15717 serving aboard HMS Queen Mary, part of Admiral Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet.
The Queen Mary had been built between 1911 and 1913, weighed 27200 tonnes and was 703
feet 6 inches long. She carried a crew of 1,275 officers and men. HMS Queen Mary was also the last of the Battle cruisers built by the Royal Navy. The original idea of the Battle cruiser was for a fast, heavily gunned but lightly armoured ship. Lack of armour when fighting against a heavily armoured opponent was a serious flaw along with shell and cordite handling problems that saw a number of this type of ship sunk at the Battle of Jutland.
Unfortunately HMS Queen Mary’s first and last action was to be the Battle of Jutland, the biggest fleet action of the First World War which took place on the 31st May 1916 . At approximately 4.26 p.m. that day, the ship was hit by shells from the German Battle cruiser SMS Derfflinger, causing one or two of QueenMary’s magazines to explode and the ship to sink within minutes. It was here that Frederick died along with 1,257 of his comrades. Only 18 of the crew survived the sinking.
Frederick died at sea aged 22 and his body was not recovered. In 1991 the wreck of the ship was discovered. The wreck site is now a designated protected place under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. No one can explore or remove items from the wreck although the propellers made of phosphor bronze may have been removed before 1991.
Frederick is remembered at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial and on the Welling War Memorial. Frederick’s death was notified to his mother who was then living at 1 Home Cottages, Godstone Road, Kenley, Surrey, near to where the Family had lived in 1911.
In a 1920 Jenkins local directory, the father, Richard is listed as living back in Welling – at 12 High Street. In 1921, Alfred Harry married Lily Ashdown. Their first child born in 1922 was named Frederick, probably in memory of his younger brother.
This story has been researched by volunteers. We have taken every effort to ensure its accuracy. If you are related to this sailor, or if you have any further information, please do get in touch.
Commemorated at Home
Welling War Memorial
The East Wickham and Welling War Memorial Trust will be adding Frederick Sell to our War Memorial during the centenary period.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/3038384/SELL,%20FREDERICK%20RICHARD